On May 26, T.I. arrived at the Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex to begin serving a 366-day sentence stemming from his 2007 arrest on felony weapons charges. And while at least two mixtapes (one featuring Kanye West and Chris Brown) have hit the streets in recent weeks, we've heard nothing official from the man.
On Tuesday (July 14), Tip premiered the video for his duet with Mary J. Blige, "Remember Me," a song that leaked a couple of weeks before he went behind bars. The track is the first single from the re-release of his Paper Trail album, scheduled to hit stores next month (although those plans could change, according to a rep for Atlantic Records). But either way, the video is here, and it represents T.I.'s first official message from behind bars.
Of course, he recorded the song and taped the video before he began serving his prison sentence. But the video and the song were both made with the express purpose of letting T.I.'s fans (and detractors) know that the King may be gone, but he's not gone for good. And one day, in the very near future (like around May 30, 2010), he'll be back to reclaim his throne.
And to that end, the video (directed by Jesse Terrero, who's helmed clips for G-Unit, Don Omar and Daddy Yankee) opens with T.I. — clad in an orange Department of Corrections jumpsuit, hands cuffed behind his back — walking the halls of a dark penitentiary, being escorted to his cell by a prison guard. As he walks, he begins a somber soliloquy, telling the viewer that "it matters not how many times you fall down; what matters most is how many times you rise."
Then Mary J. Blige comes in to sing the hook, and the song kicks in the same way all of T.I.'s great tracks do — anthemic, rattling, ticking low end, with his sing-song cadence ducking and weaving between notes — and we're off and running. T.I. spits verses aimed at those who may have forgotten him (or anyone else in his position) while he was behind bars, or might be lining up to kick him while he's down: former friends, lovers, business associates, parents. We see scenes of various inmates' outside lives happening without them — friends laughing, wives cheating, mothers grieving — and we get a sense of the helplessness that they must feel. It's powerful stuff.
But the message is clear: All things must pass, and every obstacle will be overcome. The naysayers will be proven wrong, the King will reclaim the throne. If it sounds biblical, well, it sort of is.
T.I. returns at the end of the video to drive the point home. In a second soliloquy, he serves notice to all those who doubt him or have forgotten his place in the game. "Just a friendly message for everybody who thought I was gone forever: It's a year and day and counting, understand that?" he sneers. "By the time you hear this, I'll probably be halfway home. Now remember that, suckers."